The Wilsonian Conception of Democracy and Human Rights: A Retrospective and Prospective
Adar, Korwa G
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The principles of democracy and human rights have been persistent, if at times secondary, themes within the rhetoric of American foreign policy toward Africa since the end of World War II. The linking of such Wilsonian precepts with foreign policy practice, however, has been an altogether different story. US policy makers consistently followed the dictates of realpolitik in the era of the Cold War, leaving concerns for democracy and human rights aside. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, conditions are now in place for the tangible and coherent pursuit of an American foreign policy based on democracy and human rights. In the current era, the question emerges as to the resonance of such Wilsonian principles in US foreign policy towards Africa. This essay examines the salience of Wilsonian precepts in United States foreign policy towards Africa in the past and in the current era of Clinton's visit to Africa. In his foreign policy pronouncements vis-a-vis the European colonial powers President Woodrow Wilson advocated for the pursuit of democracy and human rights conceptualized within the context of self-determination for the colonized peoples. The idea of universal morality was central for Wilson. In his view, the realization of individual freedom, limited government, and legitimacy of power held the key to both international peace and the emancipation of humanity from injustice1 . It was within this philosophical context that he advocated for the need to make the world safe for democracy. This, he argued, would promote America's long term interests 2 .